Comcast/NBCU: ‘Deal’s on Track to Close by End of Year’

Officials say they will consent to requests for comment from consumer groups for two additional weeks

Comcast and NBC Universal officials Wednesday said their $30 billion deal to combine so far appears on track to pass regulatory muster and close by year's end.

“We do believe we are on track to close by the end of the year,” one of the officials said at a background briefing in Washington.

The officials also said they will consent to requests from consumer groups for two additional weeks to provide comments on the deal to the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC can’t formally act on the deal until any comments made are reviewed.

Consumer groups had asked for the additional time to more fully respond to a report the companies recently filed in the case. If the FCC approves the two week extension, as expected, the companies, their supporters and critics will now have until Aug. 19 to file comments with the FCC.

The Comcast and NBCU officials said the FCC has until Nov. 26 to act on the deal. The Justice Department could take more time but usually finishes before the FCC. The Justice Department reviews anti-trust implications of the deal and the FCC the public interest impacts.

The expectation has been that both agencies would focus on the implications of the deal on online video, on program access and program carriage.

So far the Justice Department and FCC officials have mostly requested information or in some cases taken depositions of company officials, said the Comcast and NBC officials.

Any negotiating on provisions of the deal has yet to begin, they said.

They said they still expected whatever negotiations do take place would leave in place the deal’s main elements.

“We expect that there will not be conditions attached that affect our ability to run our business,” said one of the officials.

Comcast and NBCU have been working to allay some early opposition to the deal by negotiating with groups that were initially opposed to the deal. NBC and CBS station groups, the Independent Television and Film Alliance, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and some African-American groups either now support the deal or don’t oppose it.

Discussions continue with the NAACP and the Rainbow Push Coalition.